SAN FRANCISCO -- Mercedes-Benz USA CEO Steve Cannon says the brand plans to prod dealers to improve sales processes even though Mercedes scored the top luxury-brand ranking on J.D. Power and Associates' Sales Satisfaction Index Study last year.
"We're pushing hard, and we're not about to stop," Cannon said after the make meeting last week at the NADA convention.
Low-scoring dealers will be required to take "process training," he said.
"For the guys that get it and are doing great, we're going to keep on giving them programs to inspire them to do better," Cannon said. "For the guys at the bottom of the network that aren't getting it done, we're going to say, 'Sorry, you're going to have to invest in process training to get better at that. And as long as you stay in the bottom half of the network, that's how long you're going to continue to do that kind of training.'"
Cannon said dealers are beginning to see results from programs such as the leadership academy, in-store concierge service and brand immersion training.
Ken Schnitzer, chairman of Park Place Dealerships in Dallas, said creating a top-notch sales process is a key to Mercedes' future: "They're focused on not only increasing sales volume but on having the finest customer experience in the industry, and they're giving us the tools to do that."
Mercedes dealers will receive a greater share of the brand's global production this year after experiencing tight supplies in 2014, Cannon said. Mercedes launches the GLC crossover (a redesigned GLK) this fall. Cannon said that the GLC will be "our volume model in the hottest growing segment."
A combination of increased global production and slumping European markets will send more vehicles to the U.S. Cannon said that the strong dollar also makes sales here more attractive to the automaker.
"So the flow of cars will increase," he said. "We're confident that we'll grow at least as fast as last year and probably faster."
The brand sold 356,136 vehicles in the U.S. in 2014, a 7 percent increase from 2013.
Dealer Sharon Moss of Moss Motors in Lafayette, La., termed the supply increase "very, very positive." She added that in 2014, "We sold out, as you know."
Cannon said that dealer reaction to news that Mercedes will move from Montvale, N.J., to Atlanta beginning this spring has been "mostly positive."
"But there will be a little bit of short-term pain as we make the transition, and I asked them for their understanding. I said, 'Look, we're going to do our best to make this move as invisible to you as possible.'"